The Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC) has been awarded a five-year, $64.8 million cooperative agreement with NASA. Established in 1999, ESSIC is a joint center of the University of Maryland and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center that supports research, teaching and career training in Earth system science.
The award will enable UMD to continue and expand its close collaboration with NASA Goddard, building on a legacy of nearly two decades of world-class research in meteorology, oceanography, terrestrial physics, hydrology, atmospheric chemistry, ecosystem science and satellite Earth observations. The broad goal of ESSIC is to understand the relationships between Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land masses and biosphere, with an eye to the influence of human activities on Earth’s coupled systems.
“An understanding of our planet has never been more important, and ESSIC is well-placed to address some of the most pressing questions in Earth system science,” said Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm, interim director of ESSIC and a professor of atmospheric and oceanic science at UMD who serves as the cooperative agreement’s principal investigator. “We look forward to the next five years of collaboration with NASA Goddard and our many other academic and government research partners.”
ESSIC links research efforts at UMD’s Departments of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, Geology, and Geographical Sciences with the Earth Sciences Directorate at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. ESSIC also has a cooperative agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to support satellite research focused on weather and water forecasting models and predictions. By fostering close integration within the university community and among government partners in NASA and NOAA, ESSIC serves a unique role as a collaboration hub within the national Earth system science research community.
“Through our powerful scientific partnership, we have right here one of the world’s major clusters of Earth system science,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “Their scientific research will make a major contribution to addressing the most pressing challenges of our time.”
Over the next five years, ESSIC will prioritize projects within six major research themes:
- Atmospheric composition and processes (aerosol/cloud physics)
- Atmospheric chemistry/carbon cycle
- The cryosphere
- Hydrometeorology/precipitation retrieval
- Hydrology/land surface processes
- Numerical modeling/data assimilation
“We are looking forward to continued work with ESSIC and UMD on important research areas such as atmospheric processes, atmospheric chemistry and dynamics, and hydrospheric sciences,” said Torry Johnson, NASA Goddard’s Technical Officer for the ESSIC cooperative agreement.
Some recent ESSIC research highlights include:
- A 2017 study in the journal Nature Scientific Data, led by ESSIC Assistant Research Scientist Amy McNally, which described a new method to use data from NASA’s Land Information System to monitor agricultural and water resources in Africa and Central Asia, and integrate the information into USAID’s Famine Early Warning System Network.
- A 2016 study in the journal Nature Geoscience, with key contributions from ESSIC Associate Research Scientist Can Li, which reported satellite measurements of 39 major unreported sources of toxic sulfur dioxide emissions. CMNS covered this work with a news release.
- A 2015 study in the Journal of Geophysical Research, led by ESSIC Assistant Research Scientist Jaehwah Lee, which describes a method to integrate information from three of NASA’s main Earth observing satellites to better track the height of smoke and dust aerosols.
- A 2015 study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, led by ESSIC Associate Research Scientist Can Li, outlined a method to monitor atmospheric formaldehyde using satellites, in an effort to understand how environmental pressures such as drought can affect air quality.
- A 2015 study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, led by Goddard-based Visiting Research Scientist Hongbin Yu, which provided the first multi-year, satellite-based estimate of transcontinental phosphorus transport from the Bodélé Depression in Chad to the Amazon basin. CMNS covered this work with a news release.
“All of us at ESSIC look forward to building on our record of success by tackling new challenges in Earth systems research over the next five years,” Miralles-Wilhelm said. “We are confident that our strong partnerships with NASA, NOAA and others will enable us to support the vibrant Earth system research community, both here in the greater Washington, D.C. area and beyond.”
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About the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences
The College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland educates more than 7,000 future scientific leaders in its undergraduate and graduate programs each year. The college's 10 departments and more than a dozen interdisciplinary research centers foster scientific discovery with annual sponsored research funding exceeding $150 million.